What you need to know about
An asthma and allergy glossary
Allergen – Foreign substance that causes allergies. Can be airborne, such as pollen, dust, animal dander or mold; can trigger immune response in the body. Other allergens include venom, food, drugs and latex. Immune response or allergic reaction produces antibodies, causing itchy eyes, runny nose, coughing, asthma and eczema.
Allergic conjunctivitis – Inflammation of delicate tissue around eyeball and underside of eyelid. Symptoms include red, watery, itchy eyes.
Allergic reaction – Adverse immune response following repeat contact with allergens; immune system responding to antibodies caused by allergens. Can be itchy eyes, runny nose, coughing, asthma, eczema and hives.
Allergic rhinitis – Inflammation of nasal linings due to allergic reaction to an allergen after it is inhaled. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose/ears and watery eyes. Can lead to ear infections and sinus infections if left untreated.
Anaphylaxis – Life-threatening allergic reaction that affects many organs throughout the body at once. Symptoms usually occur within moments of exposure. Can include flushing, red, itchy rash or hives, swelling and congestion of nose, tongue and throat, nausea and vomiting, wheezing, shortness of breath, fall in blood pressure.
Angioedema – Reaction in skin and underlying tissue marked by swelling.
Anti-inflammatory drugs – Group of drugs that reduce inflammation in mucosal linings.
Antibiotics – Group of drugs that destroy bacteria that cause ear infections, sinus infections and bronchitis in long-term allergic reactions. Antibiotics do not destroy viruses and are not used to treat viral infections. Types of antibiotics include amoxicillin, Zithromax, Biaxin and Augmentin.
Antihistamines – Group of drugs that block effects of histamine, a chemical released in body fluids during an allergic reaction such as allergic rhinitis. Some over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Benadryl, can cause extreme drowsiness. Examples of antihistamines include Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) – Skin condition often triggered by allergic reactions, especially to foods. Symptoms include red, itchy, dry skin usually found in elbow creases, behind knees, on neck or around eyes.
Bronchitis – Inflammatory lung infection that results in persistent cough. Can be part of an allergic response.
Bronchodilators – Group of drugs that widen airways in lungs of an asthma patient.
Corticosteroids – Group of anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema.
Decongestants – Group of drugs that help to dry up fluid produced when the body has an allergic reaction. Often used to treat allergic rhinitis. Types of decongestants include Sudafed.
Extrinsic asthma – Triggered by an allergic reaction to something inhaled such as smoke, pollen, dust or animal dander. Symptoms include chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
Inhaler – Device that delivers asthma medication directly to lungs.
Intrinsic asthma – Asthma that has no apparent external cause.
Nebulizer – Device that produces a vapor of medication to ease breathing.
Perennial allergic rhinitis – Allergic rhinitis that occurs year-round. Most often caused by allergens that are always present such as dust mites, molds and animal dander.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis – Allergic rhinitis that typically occurs only in spring or fall when certain plant pollens fill the air. Also known as hay fever.
Skin testing – Light scratching of skin surface with small quantity of allergen to identify allergic triggers. If scratched area produces a large, raised hive after 20 minutes of application, patient is most likely allergic.
Spacer device – Apparatus that helps effectively deliver inhaler medication to lungs.
Spirometry – Breathing test that evaluates lung function. Used to diagnose asthma and monitor effectiveness of asthma drugs.
Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT or allergy shots) – Preventative treatment for allergic response to allergens such as pollens, dust mites, mold and stinging insect venom. SCIT involves giving injections of gradually increasing doses of allergen. This causes immune system to become less sensitive and reduces allergic reaction.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT or allergy drops) – Preventative treatment for allergic response to allergens such as pollens, dust mites and mold. SLIT involves daily drops of extract under tongue with increasing doses of allergen. This causes immune system to become less sensitive and reduces allergic reaction.
Urticaria – Skin condition commonly known as hives. Can be part of an allergic reaction.